ATLANTA -- Criticism is growing over the Atlanta Streetcar's free ride through the end of the year. The city had planned to collect a fare for the new system but has delayed while a collection method is found. Fare collections had been estimated at $300,000 annually.
The city has installed MARTA Breeze card kiosks at some of the street car's passenger platforms. But the city has abandoned the plan to use Breeze cards in favor of a more modern payment system.
"We simply wanted a state of the art fare collection system," said Mayor Kasim Reed Friday.
Which means Mayor Reed wants it to be more like Uber, which depends on a smartphone app to pay for the service. The city is trying to create a Streetcar app while the lost fare revenue is getting noticed.
"We need to address that (lost revenue) quickly because we need this to be revenue generating as soon as possible so it can contribute to the budget," said city councilman Alex Wan.
The Streetcar has been a free ride for four months – which often surprises its users.
"When I heard it was free that surprised me," said Jonathan Ferguson of Myrtle Beach, SC. "I would pay" a dollar for the ride, added his wife Cindy, as they waited for a streetcar on Auburn Ave.
Reed says the delay in collecting fares advances the notion of the Streetcar as "part of the city's culture. And if we had implemented a fare system that was cumbersome, and that would have discouraged ridership, then in my opinion that wasn't the right thing to do."
Reed says the city promised that Streetcar fares would cost no more than a dollar. Using the MARTA Breeze card system, he says, would have made it impossible to keep that promise.